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The Virén Chair has been developed by a variety of professionals, from engineers to physicists and researchers. PICTURE: SUPPLIED/TBWA
The Virén Chair has been developed by a variety of professionals, from engineers to physicists and researchers. PICTURE: SUPPLIED/TBWA

Plastic is making a comeback as a sustainable material in design, thanks to Fortum’s latest innovative eco-friendly design.

To demonstrate what recycled plastic can do, the global energy company has developed a self-rising chair, with no robotics, produced from Fortum Circo® recycled plastic. 

The chair was inspired by Lasse Virén, a Finnish long-distance runner who fell in the middle of the 10,000m final in the 1972 Munich Olympics. The odds were against him but he got up, won gold and set a new world record  

“The story of Lasse Virén — and especially his legendary win in the Munich Olympics — is still inspiring for many of us,” says Fortum brand manager Jussi Mälkiä.

“Our ambition was to honour comebacks, progression and resilience through the Virén Chair and to show what can be achieved with recycled plastics today. Furthermore, the Virén Chair pays respect to Finnish design with characteristics of plastic furniture developed in the 1960s by Finnish designers.”

The chair has been developed by a variety of professionals, from engineers to physicists and researchers. Fortum’s creative partner behind the idea is TBWA\Helsinki and the prototype has been 3D-printed, together with Maker3D.

Umberto Onza, lead designer of the chair at TBWA\Helsinki,  says: “Honouring the running legend Lasse Virén was present at all stages of our design process. We wanted the chair to reflect his legacy with a design that is both aerodynamic and organic, and takes its inspiration from running motion. When taking a closer look at the chair, and more specifically the legs, one can distinguish the form of a runner preparing to take off from the starting line.”

As a forerunner in creating recycled plastic compounds, Fortum says more attention needs to be paid to increasing the recycling rate of plastic, instead of reducing its use. 

Since the 1950s, plastic has been a vital material in design.

According to the UN Environment Programme, by 2019, only 9% of the plastic waste ever generated had been recycled, and in 2019, only 14% was collected for recycling.

The real problem lies in the deficient waste management systems, not the plastic material itself.

Fortum brand sales manager Anniina Rasmus says: “Plastic is in many ways a superior material that is hard to substitute. The consumption of plastic is growing globally all the time; the discussion around plastics should instead focus on how to increase recycling. We should make sure that the value of the material is preserved by recycling the plastic and converting the waste into reusable material whenever possible.” 

Fortum wants to expand the use of recycled plastics by developing recycled plastic compounds.

In this process, the quality of the recycled plastic is enhanced so the compounds can be used for products that are more technical and challenging in terms of production — of which the Virén Chair is a good example.

“The Virén Chair is made from Fortum Circo® recycled plastic compound reinforced with cellulose fibre to strengthen the material and reduce its carbon footprint. The carbon footprint of Fortum Circo® recycled plastic is about half that of virgin plastics. The added cellulose fibre, originating from renewable sources, also absorbs carbon, further reducing the carbon footprint of the material,” says Rasmus. 

This article was paid for by TBWA. 

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